Extending the Season for Meyer Lemons and Blood Oranges
One thing I really miss about living in Florida, are the orange trees that grew like weeds almost anywhere they were planted. I loved the way the orange groves would perfume the the air every spring when they were in bloom, and it was always a treat to be able to pick and eat the fruit when it was at it’s peak.
I will never forget the time myself and the other neighborhood children, could no longer resist the bright orange spheres slowly ripening on a local farmers trees. Completely disobeying our parents orders, we snuck into the orange grove, hid in the trees, and struggled to remove the peel from a few stolen pieces of fruit. Our hearts raced as we did so and we were sure that any minute, we would be chased off the land by the sound of shot guns… Luckily, we never were caught, but we did not unnecessarily go unpunished either as our lips burned for hours from the taste of the under ripe fruit. It was something we never did again…
Years later, my husband and I were lucky enough to live in a carriage house situated on a plot of land that was home to several orange trees. During the picking season, it was a morning ritual of mine, to head down to the orange trees at dawn with a basket, which I used to fill up with the ripest and most beautiful fruit I could find. When my basket was full, I would take them inside and use all of them to make tall freshly squeezed glasses of orange juice which both myself and my husband would drink as if it were the nectar of the gods. I will never forget how decadent those mornings were.
There were often more oranges than we could use, so they were often shared with friends, family, and were preserved to hold us through till the next crop. Back then I discovered that fresh squeezed citrus juices freeze really well. It was a labor of love, but before the season was over we were usually able to freeze several large Ziploc freezer bags full of it. When there was a bumper crop we were sometimes able to save enough to last us for several months.
Canning homemade jams, jellies, preserves, and marmalades, is also a great way to preserve and extend the seasonality of your favorite fruits, so their flavors maybe enjoyed long after the growing season is over. Inspired by the sweet floral flavors of the Meyer Lemons and the colorful raspberry-like fruitiness of the Blood Oranges that are in season right now, I decided to try my hand making marmalade. I was in turn rewarded with 5 pint jars full of pure sunshine perfect for extending the season for Meyer Lemons and Blood Oranges as I use them in both my cooking and baking projects through out the year.
Buying and Storing Citrus
When buying citrus, look for fruit that looks fresh, seems heavy for it’s size, and is firm to the touch. Avoid any citrus that has skin that seems shriveled, dry, or moldy. Most citrus will keep at room temperature for several days, but will keep much longer if stored, in the refrigerator.
Meyer Lemon and Blood Orange Marmalade Preparation Checklist
As a first time canner, I would often read through canning recipes and procedures feeling a bit confused about the order of the process, timing, and organization of my equipment and ingredients. I would read my Ball Blue Book of Preserving and worry that my timing would be off and that the water in my water bath canner would not be ready at the same time that my jam was or that my jars would be cool by the time I needed them. For a first time canner, I will admit that I found the timing and preparation to be a bit overwhelming…
I have since found that as with many recipes, canning can be a breeze if all of your ingredients and equipment has been prepped a head of time. Making sure your equipment is clean, sterile, and in good condition before preparing any of the ingredients is crucial to safe canning and the explicit following of directions will help further insure success. As with all things, practice makes perfect and the process will become easier each time as you become more familiar, with the technique, process, and organizational methods that work best for you and the space that you will be working in. Listed below the recipe, is my personal checklist that I followed for this recipe. I truly hope that it will inspire confidence in the beginning canner as well as help an established canner streamline the steps of this recipe. As with all major culinary projects, I have found that working my way down a check list keeps me from forgetting important steps, makes the task much less stressful, and definitely more enjoyable, but most of all, it insures a greater chance of success. I truly hope it does for you as well if you decide to try your own hand at making my Meyer Lemon and Blood Orange Marmalade.
- Read through the Complete Guide to Home Canning, Guide 1, Principals of Home Canning, Guide 7, Preparing and Canning Jams and Jellies, and Information from the National Center of Home Canning.
- In canning cleanliness is king, so before canning, it is a good idea to clean and organize your kitchen fairly well, so you may best utilize the space. Be sure to clear out any clutter and wash and put away any dishes that might be out on the counter or in the dishwasher.
- Thoroughly wash and dry all equipment that will be used. While doing this, set the dishwasher to Heated Dry, run canning jars and bands through the dishwasher to be both washed and dried. To keep the jars hot, continue turn the dial back to Heated Dry once the jars have already been cycled once. This will insure they are hot and dry when needed.
- Fill Water Bath Canner with water until half full, cover and set on large burner of the stove. Fill a Kettle with water, so it will be ready to be brought to a boil in the event that extra water is needed to cover the jars as they are processed.
- Fill a medium saucepan with water and cover with a lid. This will later be used to the boil water used for keeping the lids sterile and hot. This is a good time to read over the manufacturer’s instructions concerning the lids.
- Set up an area as close to the dishwasher as possible with all of the items you will need to fill, and cap the jars. I like to lay down a clean dishtowel, and place all of the items (metal skimmer, canning funnel, ladle, bubble freer, folded paper towels for wiping lids, lid wand, and jar lifter) I will be needing on top of it, it the general order they will be used. To the right of the dish towel, I set a trivet where the large saucepan full of marmalade will be placed once removed from the stove. To the right of it, I will set a bowl and a skimmer, for quickly removing the foam from the jam immediately after removing from the stove and right before filling the jars. On the opposite side of the towel, I will set the clean lids and another trivet, so I have a place to set the medium saucepan of boiling water. The lids will go in the saucepan right before I remove my jam from the stove and begin to fill my jars.
- At this point, I will check the dishwasher cycle to make sure that it is not finished with the Heated Dry Cycle. If it is, I will turn the knob back, so this last cycle will begin again. Depending on the difficulty of the recipe, I have found that I might have to cycle the jars through this last cycle a few times.
- Bring water in water bath canner, med sauce pot (for lids), and tea kettle full of water to a boil. As they are heating on the stove, begin to prep all of your ingredients. Chances are, the water will come all come to a boil before you actually need it, so turn the heat down to a low simmer as you continue to prepare your ingredients and or follow the recipe.
Meyer Lemon and Blood Orange Marmalade
5 Cups of Sugar
1/8 Tsp. Butter
1 1/2 Cups of Water
2 Medium oranges
1 Medium Size Blood Orange
1 Large Regular Lemon
1 Large Meyer Lemon
1/8 Tsp. Baking Soda
1 Pouch of Liquid Pectin such as Sure Jell (The pectin used by my Great Aunts for many years)
- Measure sugar into a bowl, top with 1/8 Tsp. butter, cover, and set aside.
- Pour water in a large saucepan, cover with a lid and set aside.
- Using a zester, carefully remove zest from all of the fruit and place in the large saucepan, stir into the water, cover with the lid and set aside. Try not to remove any of the white part, known as the pith, as it will give your marmalade a bitter flavor.
- Segment and chop all of the fruit, catching their juices in a non reactive bowl. (Be sure to remove all pits.) Cover bowl of fruit and juices and set aside.
- Add baking soda to water and zest. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, cover, and simmer for 2o minutes.
- As the zest simmers for 20 minutes, it is a good time to check the dishwasher cycle to be sure it is still on heated dry, re-read instructions for filling and sealing jars, and it is a good time to wash, dry, and put away all dirty dishes used so far.
- Place Liquid Pectin Pouch standing up in a glass measuring cup and cut off the top of the pouch using clean scissors. Set the pectin near the simmering zest, so it will be handy, when ready to use.
- As soon as the zest mixture is done simmering, turn the heat up to high and add the fruit, juice, sugar, and mix well.
- Bring water in the water bath canner, tea kettle, and small sauce pan back to a heavy rolling boil.
- Quickly remove small saucepan full of boiling water from the stove and place on a trivet. Place clean lids in the water, cover, and allow to rest, until ready to use. Turn heat under tea kettle down to medium low.
- Bring jam to a heavy rolling boil that will continue even as mixture is stirred. Reduce heat to medium or medium low so mixture is bubbling gently. Continue to stir as mixture simmers for 8 minutes.*It is very important to stir constantly so mixture will not burn.
- Turn heat back up to high and bring mixture back up to a rapid boil for 1 minute.
- Add pectin and bring mixture back up to a boil, stirring constantly for 1 more minute.
- Remove marmalade from the heat, set on trivet, and quickly skim off any foam with a metal skimmer.
- Remove 1 hot jar from the dishwasher, place funnel on top of jar, and ladle marmalade into jar, being sure to leave 1/4 th of an inch head space. Remove the funnel, use bubble freer to remove bubbles from jar, slightly wet the clean paper towels with water and use to wipe any jam from the top of the jar. Using lid wand, remove 1 lid from the small saucepan of water, line up and place on top of the jar and screw band on, making sure the band is not too tight.
- Lift canning rack; latch onto sides of canner, and using jar lifter, place jar of marmalade on the rack.
- Continue this process till all jars are full and are resting lid side up on the rack. The jars should all be half covered with boiling water at this point.
- Gently lower rack in to the boiling water. The jars should be covered with 1 – 2 inches of water. If more water is needed, pour boiling water from tea kettle into the water bath canner at this point.
- Bring water in water bath canner to a boil and process the jars for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, begin to clean up the kitchen and set down a dish towel to place under the hot processed jars of marmalade while they cool. (Setting hot jars on a cool surface may cause them to shatter.)
- Turn off the heat, remove the lid, and allow the pot to cool for 5 minutes.
- Lift canning rack, latch onto sides of canner, carefully remove jars one by one with the jar lifter, and place 1 – 2 inches apart of the clean dish towel. Do not tilt jars to remove water from the lid as this may effect the seal. The water will easily evaporate from the heat of the jar.
- Listen for and count the pings, the sound that the jars make as they seal.
- Allow jars to sit for 24 hours before removing bands and checking lids to be sure they are sealed.
- Store homemade marmalade in a cool dark place such as a basement for up to 1 year.
Yields: 5 half pint jars full of pure sunshine.